Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Palestinian Authority urges investigation into Israeli politician Bennet's 'kill Arabs' remarks

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday called on Israel to investigate remarks made by Israel's Economy and Trade Minister, which made claims about killing Palestinians.

Naftali Bennett, leader of the far-right Jewish Home partner, commented to Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot following news of a Palestinian prisoner release that: "If you catch terrorists, you have to simply kill them."

"I've killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there's no problem with that," he went on to say.

The PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that based on these confessions, "the Israeli government has to open a transparent and legal investigation into these remarks and allow Palestinian rights advocates to follow the investigation." more

Group: Syria govt detains 2 Palestinian journalists

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Syrian government forces arrested two Palestinian journalists in Syria on Tuesday, a Palestinian group said.

Mahmud Nawara and Issa Dour were detained in Damascus by Syrian security forces, the Taskforce for Palestinians in Syria said.

Both men work at the Freedom Newspaper, which is affiliated with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The Syrian government is still blockading the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, the group added, with people prevented from entering or leaving. more

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Israel advises Sri Lanka on slow-motion genocide

Through the “war on terror,” the Israeli and Sri Lankan armies have waged war on civilian populations.

The Rome-based Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal has commissioned an independent report that finds the Sri Lankan state guilty of bombing hospitals, humanitarian operations and even government-declared “safe zones,” in clear violation of international humanitarian law (“Preliminary report,” January 2010 [PDF]).

A United Nations report estimates that from January to May 2009, between 40,000 and 75,000 persons were killed (“Report of the secretary-general’s panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka,” 31 March 2011).

The Sri Lankan government’s own statistical data reveal that almost 147,000 persons remain unaccounted for: no one knows if they are held in prison, injured, or dead (“146,679 Vanni people missing within a year of war: Bishop of Mannaar,” TamilNet, 12 January 2011).

Major arms supplier

But there are more direct connections.

Israel has been a major arms supplier to Sri Lanka’s government, as well as providing it with strategic military advice. With permission from the United States, Israel has sold Sri Lanka consignments of Kfir jets and drones.

Israel has also supplied the Dvora patrol boats to Sri Lanka, which have been used extensively against Tamils (“Sri Lanka learns to counter Sea Tigers’ swarm tactics,” Jane’s Navy International, March 2009 [PDF]).

And Israel has also provided training to the Special Task Force, a brutal commando unit in the Sri Lanka police.

The similarities don’t end there. Both Palestinians and Tamils have been subjected to a process of settler-based colonialism. more

Hamas summons Ma'an bureau chief in Gaza

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Hamas authorities in Gaza on Tuesday summoned the bureau chief of Ma'an's Gaza office for questioning and confiscated the keys to the office, a journalists' union said.

Abed al-Nasser al Najjar, chairman of the Palestinian Journalists' Union, said that the group has filed a complaint against the office of Gaza's public prosecutor for violating press freedoms and stifling freedom of expression.

The closure of Ma'an's Gaza office, as ordered by Gaza's prosecutor general on July 25, is a step to permanently taking control of the office, al-Najjar said.

Hamas authorities could confiscate content from the office, or install spyware devices to monitor journalists, the union chairman added.

The group will contact international journalists' unions to pressure Hamas authorities to reopen the office, which has been closed since July 25. more

Supply convoy sent to field hospital in Gaza

GAZA (Petra) – A convoy of trucks carrying supplies meant for Jordan’s military field hospital in Gaza, "Gaza 25", arrived in the Strip through the Beit Hanoun border crossing on Monday.

Commander of the hospital Osama Qatawneh said that the six-truck convoy carried supplies that included medical equipment and other material required to sustain the hospital's services.

He said the convoy’s arrival will help continue the work being carried out by the hospital and enable it to offer better medical services to the Palestinians in the Strip as part of the efforts to implement His Majesty King Abdullah II's directives "to provide our people in Gaza with distinguished medical services." more

Palestinian Prisoners Society publishes list of prisoners expected to be freed

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Prisoners Society on Sunday published a list of detainees expected to be freed as part of a release deal by Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that Israel will free 104 Palestinian prisoners to coincide with the resumption of long-stalled peace talks brokered by the United States. The Israeli PM will seek cabinet approval for the release on Sunday.

Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners' Society, said earlier that there would be no talks unless all 104 prisoners returned to their homes.

The list details each prisoner's name, year of arrest, and place of origin.
1. Karim Yousef Fadel Younis - 1983 - Israel
2. Maher Abed al-Latif Younis - 1983 - Israel
3. Issa Nemr Jebril Abed Rabu - 1984 - Bethlehem
4. Ahmad Farid Mohammad Shihada - 1985 - Ramallah
5. Mohammad Ibrahim Mohammad Naser - 1985 - Ramallah
6. Rafi Farhud Mohammad Karaja - 1985 - Ramallah
7. Mustafa Amer Mohammad Ghniemat - 1985 - Hebron
8. Ziyad Mahmud Mohammad Ghniemat - 1985 - Hebron
9. Othman Abdullah Mahmud Bani Hassan - 1985 - Jenin
10. Haza Mohammad Haza Saedi - 1985 - Jenin
11. Mohammad Ahmad Abed al-Hamid al-Tus - 1985 - Hebron
12. Fayez Mtawe Hamad al-Khur - 1985 - Gaza
13. Mohammad Musbah Khalil Ashur - 1986 - Jerusalem
14. Ibrahim Nayef Hamdan Abu Mukh - 1986 - Israel
15. Rushdi Hamdan Mohammad Abu Mukh - 1986 - Israel
16. Walid Nemr Asaad Daqa - 1986 - Israel more

Monday, 29 July 2013

Palestinian man shot near Bureij refugee camp in Gaza

The Palestinian Information Center (PIC) has reported that Israeli soldiers shot a 25-year-old Palestinian man east of Bureij refugee camp on Saturday [27 July] evening. Health ministry spokesman Dr. Ashraf Al-Qudra told PIC that the victim suffered multiple gunshot wounds after Israeli soldiers opened fire shortly before Iftar, and he described the man’s condition as moderate.

The Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza is located near the “access restricted area” (ARA) established by Israel along the perimeter fence that separates Gaza from Israel. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Occupied Palestinian Territory (OCHA OPT), up to 35% of Gaza’s agricultural land is affected by the access restricted area. more

Egyptian soldier killed in Rafah attack

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- An Egyptian soldier was killed on Monday during a militant attack on an army camp in Sinai.

Gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades at Egyptian forces near Rafah, killing a soldier, Ma'an's correspondent said.

Militants attacked eight other army checkpoints in the el-Arish, Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, injuring eight soldiers.

On Sunday, gunmen fired US-made ballistic shells at a security building in north Sinai, Egypt's Ministry of Interior said.

"Terrorists targeted the security directorate of north of Sinai from a long distance," the ministry said. Security sources detained three suspects in Sinai, after clashing with two of them.

A police station in el-Arish was also targeted late Sunday by a bomb, with no injuries reported. more

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Call for action against huge ethnic cleansing plan: Stop Prawer Plan!

We call on international solidarity activists to organize demonstrations on 1 August in their own cities, and to spread awareness of the biggest impending ethnic cleansing campaign against Palestinians by Israel since 1948 through writing petitions, sharing information on the Naqab and Prawer Plan, or by any other show of activism.

On Monday, July 15, thousands of Palestinians protested in their cities, towns and at busy street junctions against the Prawer Plan, in a day that was designated as the national day of rage, or Anger Strike.

From Bir Sabe to Jerusalem, West Bank to the Galilee, Haifa to Gaza, Palestinians demonstrated against the Prawer Plan which passed its first reading in the Knesset last month. The Plan aims to

* confiscate 800,000 dunums of land in the Naqab desert
* expel over 50,000 Palestinian Bedouins
* demolish 35 unrecognized villages
* confine 30% of Palestinian Bedouins in the Naqab to 1% of the land

Stay updated on Twitter and Facebook through the hashtags #StopPrawerPlan
Contact us: more

British human rights activist wins fight over Israeli-made water-meter

A British Palestine supporter won a battle this week to stop Southern Water company installing an Israeli-made water meter at her home.

The “Morning Star” newspaper said in its online edition that Brighton resident, Caroline O'Reilly was so determined not to have an Israeli-made meter that she even sat in a hole in the road in protest against Southern Water's use of the meter.

According to the paper, O'Reilly managed to force Southern Water to back down after her protest won her much support.

Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign have been fighting against installation of the meters in thousands of homes in Sussex.

The group said they are made by “Arad Technologies” - an Israeli company which the group claims profits from and is deeply complicit in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The group said it had been challenging Southern Water to explain "how a company that is so blatantly involved in ethnic cleansing and the appropriation of Palestinian water resources can have been awarded this lucrative contract, when the procurement process clearly contravened several of Southern Water's own ethical and corporate responsibility policies.

The Morning Star added that "Following Caroline O'Reilly's refusal to allow the Arad meter to be installed, she exchanged letters with Southern Water staff, resulting in a significant climb-down by the company."

Other Palestine supporters in the area are following Caroline's example and rejecting the Israeli-made meters by insisting Southern Water installs alternative equipment. more

Soldiers injure Gaza farmer in Israeli firing at border

Israeli soldiers have injured a Palestinian farmer at the borders between eastern Gaza Strip and the occupied Palestine.

Residents living in al-Bureij refugee camp in the besieged enclave told Xinhua on Saturday that they heard gunfire near the borders, adding that Israeli troops opened fire at a farmer who was approaching the border.

The Israeli military has not yet made any comments regarding the incident. more

Israeli forces evict protest village near Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces evicted a protest village near the Kfar Etzion settlement compound south of Bethlehem on Saturday, a local committee said.

The Popular Struggle Committee Against the Settlements and the Wall said its activists pitched tents on land belonging to the Abu Ayyash family.

Four hours later, the Israeli army arrived with an order to evict the protesters, the committee said.

The committee said the action sent a message to the Israeli government that Israeli settlements would eventually vanish. It said Palestinian were entrenched in their land, and that they would dictate the next stage in peace talks, not the negotiators. more

Saturday, 27 July 2013

No evidence of “threats” that prompted The Animals’ Eric Burdon to cancel Israel gig

Eric Burdon, Jimi Hendrix and friends

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Eric Burdon, former lead vocalist of the 1960s British band The Animals, has canceled a scheduled performance in Israel amid claims of “threats” to his life.

But no evidence has emerged to substantiate the claims of threats, or accusations by a Jewish Agency propagandist that activists in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement made them.

Claim of “threats”

“We are under increasing pressure, including many threatening emails that we are receiving on a daily basis. I wouldn’t want to put Eric in any danger,” his manager, Marianna Burdon, wrote in a letter to Israeli members of Tislam, the band Burdon was scheduled to perform with, Haaretz reported on 23 July.

Burdon is currently on tour promoting his recent solo album Til Your River Runs Dry. The Animals’ best-known songs include hit singles “The House of the Rising Sun,” “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “We Gotta Get out of This Place.”

Burdon’s song “Monterey” (see video above) is an ode to the legendary 1967 music festival in Monterey, California, which is remembered for some of the earliest major American appearances by iconic artists of the era, including Hugh Masekela, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who and Ravi Shankar.

While other Israeli media, such as The Times of Israel website, have also reported that Burdon “caved to threats,” no details of the alleged threats have come to light.

The Independent reported, “The nature of the threats is unclear, but according to Israel Radio … Mr Burdon was not willing to risk his life to come to Israel.”

According to the blog Kadaitcha, Burdon’s cancelation came after an advocacy campaign by activists, including the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Don’t Play Apartheid Israel. more

The child workers who maintain Gaza's cemeteries

Mahmoud, a 12-year-old Gazan boy, spends more than nine hours a day between the graves of the Sheikh Radwan cemetery in the center of Gaza City. He stares at the cemetery gate, waiting for a grave visitor or funeral procession.

Mahmoud offers to keep the tombs of the deceased clean and planted with flowers in exchange for a small sum. He does this to avoid problems with his father, who beats him and threatens to kick him out of the house if he doesn’t collect enough money by the end of the day.

According to data from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), “There are about 65,000 working children in the Palestinian territories, accounting for 6% of all children in the 5-14 age range. Some are paid, others are not.”

In its annual report issued in 2012, the PCBS said that 8% of children aged 5-14 work in the West Bank, while 3.1% of the same age group work in the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, 7.7% of male children (aged 5-14) in the Palestinian territories work, while among females this rate is 4.2%. Mahmoud, who appears to be extremely tired, wanders among the graves, carrying a small bucket of water in one hand and a bouquet of roses in the other. He sprays water on graves and removes the grass from around the tombstone to plant flowers instead.

While spraying water on a marble tomb that appears to be new, he told Al-Monitor, “My father took me out of school two years ago. He told me I am only supposed to work, and forced me to come to this cemetery every day to ask visitors for money in return for taking care of the graves of their loved ones on a regular basis.” more

Factions denounce Hamas closure of media offices in Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Palestinian factions on Thursday condemned the closure by Hamas of media offices in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas' attorney-general on Thursday ordered the closure of the Gaza City bureaus of Al-Arabiya and Ma'an News Agency.

"The Attorney General decided to close down Al-Arabiya and Ma'an offices in Gaza for distributing false news regarding the smear campaign against Hamas and Gaza about what's happening in Egypt," a Hamas official told AFP.

The order was relayed to Ma'an's bureau chief in Gaza by officials from the Hamas Ministry of Information and security forces, who visited the office to complain about a report that Muslim Brotherhood officials had been smuggled into Gaza.

Fatah's culture and media commission said the closures violated Palestinians' right to information. It called on Arab media organizations and human rights groups to act against threats to the media.

The Palestinian National Initiative called on Hamas to reconsider its decision to close the offices and to respect the rights to expression and stop attacks against the media freedoms. more

Friday, 26 July 2013

Gaza’s Ark - a bid to break Israel’s blockade from within

Palestinian labourers and foreign activists are working tirelessly to transform a large fishing boat into “Gaza’s Ark” with the aim of exporting local produce in the latest bid to break Israel’s blockade on the coastal strip.

The Ark, which is being fitted out to carry goods and more than 100 passengers, is expected to set sail for Europe when it is completed by the end of July in the latest high-profile attempt to challenge Israel’s maritime lockdown on the tiny Hamas-run territory.

If they are successful, this will be the first time goods from Gaza have been exported by sea since the signing of the 1994 Oslo Peace Accords.

Significantly, this attempt to alleviate the effects of the seven-year blockade comes from within Gaza, where locals refurbishing the 24-metre-long (78 feet) vessel want to take matters into their own hands, rather than waiting for help from the outside world.

“This will help fishermen, farmers and factory workers in Gaza to market their products,” said Abu Ammar Bakr, who was a fisherman for 40 years before turning his hand to repairing boats.

Mohammed Abu Salmi, who owns a furniture shop, was equally buoyed by the prospect of shipping products overseas.

“Export by sea will resuscitate farming and light industry in Gaza and will ease unemployment… and help to lift this oppressive blockade,” he told AFP.more

Israel limits EU activities in West Bank, Gaza

Israeli Defense Minister has ordered to halt cooperation with EU officials in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It came as a response to European Commission’s guidelines that banned funding of Israel’s controversial settlement program in occupied territories.

Moshe Ya’alon’s move, which was reported by several media agencies citing unnamed Israeli officials, effectively banned any assistance to joint infrastructure projects in West Bank’s Area C.

IDF will no longer grant new permits or renew existing ones for EU construction projects in the territory, which makes the largest of the three West Bank areas created with Oslo II Accord in 1995, has 300,000 Israeli settlers against some 150,000 Palestinians, and is held under Israeli civil and military control.

Some of the EU-led projects in the West Bank which will face the ax include Palestinian Authority police training program and a waste removal program. Transfers of the EU donor funds to projects in the Palestinian territories have already been frozen, according to reports.

Ya’alon also voiced plans to limit the movement of EU officials to the Gaza Strip and back to Israel through the Erez Crossing, which reportedly includes refusal to renew transit visas to these officials.

Israeli defense officials in the West Bank have stopped holding work meetings with EU representatives, media reports said. more

In latest punitive measures Egypt bans Gaza fishermen from its waters

Palestinian fishermen have been banned by Egyptian authorities from sailing into Egyptian waters. It is the latest punitive measure slapped on Gaza following President Mohammed Morsi’s overthrow on July 3.

The fishermen often sailed toward Egyptian waters from their narrow fishing zone, which Israel has set to six nautical miles and which is described by local fishermen as a “pool.”

According to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, the Egyptian military banned fishing in the area of the northern Sinai towns of Rafah, Sheikh Zuweid and El-Arish from July 18 until further notice.

The paper claimed that the reason behind the ban is to prevent the infiltration of Palestinians and jihadi agents from Gaza to Egypt by fishing boats. more

Hamas government closes Ma'an, Al-Arabiya bureaus in Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The attorney-general in the Hamas-run government on Thursday ordered the closure of the Ma'an News Agency and Al-Arabiya TV bureaus in Gaza.

A Hamas official told AFP that the attorney-general closed Al-Arabiya's office "for distributing false news regarding the smear campaign against Hamas and Gaza about what's happening in Egypt."

"We received the closure notice and an official statement from Al-Arabiya will be published to respond to this decision," its Gaza correspondent, Islam Abd Al Kareem, told AFP.

The closure order from the attorney-general was delivered to Ma'an by officials from the Hamas-run Ministry of Information and security forces.

Ministry officials accompanied by security forces questioned the Gaza bureau chief in his office on Thursday over a report published on Ma'an's Arabic site that quoted information translated from a Hebrew news site. more

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Ministry: Israeli forces shoot, injure man on Gaza border

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces shot and injured a Palestinian on Thursday near the border in the northern Gaza Strip, the Health Ministry said.

The victim was shot in his foot by Israeli soldiers in a watchtower near Beit Hanoun, said ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra. more

Saboteurs vandalize playground at Gaza sports club

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Vandals broke into the playground of a sports club in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on Wednesday.

The vandals tore down a map of Palestine, a photo of late President Yasser Arafat and another photo of a local leader who was killed by Israeli forces, the local popular committee in the Nuseirat refugee camp said in a statement. more

Palestinian families denied prison visits after objecting to strip searches

The International Solidarity Foundation for Human Rights (ISFHR) reported that dozens of families of Palestinian detainees held by Israel at the Nafha prison have been denied family visits after a young Palestinian woman refused to be strip searched by the soldiers.

The ISFHR said that the soldiers ordered the young woman to remove her clothes to be strip searched, but she refused. One of her relatives tried to defend her but the soldiers violently attacked and beat him.

Mother of detainee Mohammad Odeh, from Jerusalem, stated that the soldiers demanded dozens of women, mothers, wives and sisters of the detainees to be strip-searched, but they refused and were forced back home. more

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Hamas: Egyptian coup leaders trying to restore rule over Gaza

Hamas is concerned that Egypt may be trying to restore its sovereignty over the Gaza Strip, Mousa Abu Marzook, a senior Hamas official, said Monday.

Abu Marzook wrote on his Facebook page that by sending helicopters to fly over the Gaza Strip, “Egypt is signaling that it trying to restore its sovereignty over the area, which it lost after the 1967 aggression.”

Over the past few days, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip reported that Egyptian military helicopters flew over certain parts of the Gaza Strip as part of a massive security crackdown on terror groups in Sinai.

Palestinians said that this was the first time since 1967 that Egyptian military helicopters had flown over the Gaza Strip, which until then was under Egyptian control.

Abu Marzook reiterated that Hamas was not meddling in any way in Egypt’s internal affairs.

Hamas’s armed wing does not operate outside the Palestinian territories, he added in response to reports in a number of Egyptian media outlets claiming that Hamas militiamen were behind terror attacks on Egyptian troops and civilians.

“Our resistance is only directed against [Israeli] occupation,” Abu Marzook said. “For the one-thousandth time we state that these are lies and fabrications.”more

Israel police: 2 Gaza rockets hit Israel

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip hit southern Israel on Wednesday but caused no damage or casualties, a police spokeswoman said.

"The rockets landed in the Eshkol region," Luba Samri told AFP, adding that "security forces are searching for their remains".

A lone rocket hit the same area on Sunday, and two hit southern Israel last Thursday, none causing any damage or casualties.

The last incident of cross-border fire between Israel and the Islamist Hamas-ruled Gaza was on June 24, when the Islamic Jihad group fired five rockets at Israel, which retaliated with air strikes. more

Egypt tunnel closures create 'serious shortages' in Gaza says UN

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process said Tuesday that Egypt's crackdown on smuggling tunnels, together with ongoing Israeli restrictions, have created severe shortages in Gaza.

Robert Serry, speaking to the UN Security Council, said political developments in Egypt have led to an intensified campaign against smuggling tunnels along the shared border.

"As a result of these actions against illegal activity, according to some estimates, 80 percent of the tunnels are no longer functioning," Serry was quoted as saying by Reuters.

The crackdown has led to serious shortages of fuel and basic building materials, Serry added.

The top UN official warned that access into Gaza through legal crossings must be liberalized, otherwise economic and humanitarian conditions would further deteriorate.

"We encourage all parties not to forget the precarious situation in Gaza and to take advantage of the improved context between the parties to further lift the remaining closures," the Special Representative said, also calling on Egypt to keep open the Rafah crossing for people. more

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Video: Bedouins resist Israeli plan to expel 40,000 and “Judaize” their land

With the European Union’s recent decision to stop subsidies to any Israeli projects in the occupied West Bank, a lot of media attention has once again been focused on Israeli settlements there.

What has attracted much less international attention is an Israeli plan to force tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouins out of their homes in the southern Naqab (Negev) region, land that most countries recognize as part of present-day Israel.

This video report from The Real News Network provides essential background, noting that some 200,000 Bedouins live in the Naqab, about half of them in so-called “unrecognized villages” that have existed since before the Israeli state was founded. more

Why are Egyptian media demonizing Palestinians?

On 6 July, Egyptian TV host Shafki al-Moniri, on Al-Yawm TV, apologized to her viewers that she wasn’t in the country a week earlier for the 30 June protests that served as the backdrop for the army’s ouster of President Muhammad Morsi.

But she had been eager to fly home as soon as possible to join the celebrations. As her fellow passengers were checking in for their flight to Cairo from Barcelona, she recounted that one traveler “was very nervous and we didn’t know why he was nervous. We boarded, and a while later, Egypt Air had to offload him.” He turned out to be Palestinian, al-Moniri said.

“The flight attendant explained that there is an order to offload this passenger,” and there was more delay as the passenger’s luggage was located.

She said she was sure this wasn’t an action against all Palestinians, but that there must be a question mark over the particular Palestinian removed from the flight.

At that moment, al-Moniri said, she felt safe because “the army and the police forces are wide awake and acting properly.”

After telling this story, al-Moniri, overcome with emotion and joy, broke down in tears on camera as she repeated, “I love you Egypt, I love you Egypt,” and had to be comforted by her fellow TV host.

It is unclear if al-Moniri knew that in fact, one of the first acts taken by the military regime that overthrew Morsi on 3 July, was to ban Palestinians from entering Egypt through Cairo airport, leaving thousands stranded all over the world, preventing them from returning home to Gaza through Rafah crossing — the sole point of entry and exit for the vast majority of Gaza’s residents. All over the world, Palestinians were denied boarding on Cairo-bound flights and dozens were deported from Cairo’s airport.

These actions against Palestinians have been widely justified with constantly repeated rumors — never backed by evidence — that Palestinians are interfering in Egypt’s affairs, causing turmoil, and are even responsible for attacks on Egyptian security forces by militant groups in the Sinai peninsula.

The allegations have been levelled at Palestinians in general, and Hamas in particular.

To further feed the paranoia, on 8 July a speaker on Al Kahera Wal Nas TV made the allegation that toppled President Morsi is “of Palestinian origin,” an inflammatory and bigoted allegation in the present atmosphere. After the guest made the supposed revelation, the host, instead of asking for evidence, turned to the camera and said, “we must repeat it, President Morsi is of Palestinian origin.” more

Israel charges Haniyeh's sisters for entering Gaza

BEERSHEBA, Israel (Ma'an) -- Israel on Tuesday indicted two sisters of Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh for entering the Gaza Strip.

Sabah Haniyeh, 47, and Laila Abu Raqeeq, 64, are being charged for entering Gaza in December 2012, according to the lawyer for the prosecution.

The sisters, who hold Israeli IDs and live in Tel as-Sabi in southern Israel, had applied for Israeli permission to enter Gaza in 2006 and 2009 but were refused. more

Gaza economy loses $230 million due to tunnel closures

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The economy of the Gaza Strip lost an estimated $230 million in June due to the closure of smuggling tunnels by Egyptian authorities, Gaza's minister of economy said Tuesday.

Over 20,000 people have lost their jobs in the construction industry as a result of shortages in raw materials which usually arrive through the network of smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border, minister of economy Alaa Rafati told Ma'an.

"The siege Israel imposed on Gaza is still in effect, though it was loosened at a certain point thanks to the tunnels," Rafati said.

Nearly 90 percent of projects funded by Qatar and Turkey have been suspended due to a lack of supplies to Gaza since June 15.

Supplies allowed through by Israel via the Kerem Shalom crossing only cover around 30 percent of the population's needs, Rafati said. more

Haniyeh urges Egypt to stop media incitement

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Tuesday urged Egyptian officials to put an end to incitement against Palestinians in the country's media.

"It is in our interest that Egypt remains powerful and united, so it can resume its leading role in the Arab and Islamic world to restore Palestine and free Jerusalem," Haniyeh said at Ramadan prayers.

Hamas officials have been contacting their Egyptian counterparts to end media speculation that Hamas has been playing a role in social and political unrest in the country.

"We haven't played any role in the Egyptian arena because we insist on our declared policy of non-intervention in the internal affairs of any Arab or Islamic country," the Hamas PM said, stressing that the group had not sent militants to the Sinai peninsula. more

Monday, 22 July 2013

Hamas reeling from Egyptian crackdown on Gaza tunnels

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are reeling from another devastating blockade but this time they are blaming Egypt, the neighbouring Arab power they once hoped would end their isolation, rather than their old foe Israel.

In a few weeks of digging, dynamiting and drenching, Cairo's troops have destroyed many of the smuggling tunnels that ran under the Egypt-Gaza border and which had provided the cramped coastal enclave with commercial goods as well as weaponry.

The Islamist Hamas government, which taxes much of the traffic through the underground passages, has been hit hard by the losses. Ordinary Palestinians, many of them dependent on U.N. aid handouts, have seen prices for staple goods skyrocket.

"There is a difficult humanitarian situation in Gaza because of the Egyptian measures on the borders," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. "Most of the tunnels were demolished and the few that remain open are paralysed."

He likened the crisis to 2007, when Israel, responding to the Hamas takeover of Gaza in a brief civil war with Western-backed Palestinian rivals, clamped down on the territory. more

Israel to free 'around 80' Palestinian prisoners

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel is set to decide on the release of around 80 long-serving Palestinian prisoners ahead of renewed peace talks, an Israeli official said on Monday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Friday that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators had agreed to meet to prepare a resumption of direct peace talks, stalled since 2010.

"The prisoner releases will start when talks commence," the Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity. "We're talking about releasing them in stages."

There were "some 80 prisoners" set to be released, all of them "pre-Oslo," the official added, referring to Palestinians imprisoned before the 1993 Oslo peace accords. more

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Video: Wave of child arrests intensifies in Hebron

The city of Hebron has experienced a wave of child arrests during the last weeks, often violating Israeli military law stating that children under the age of 12 cannot be arrested, as in the case of 5-year-old Wadia.

Though both Ahmed and Mohammed are 13, Palestinians complain that this law, giving Israeli occupation forces the right to arrest children from the age of 12, is only ever enforced for their children and not for settler children. On Sunday night in Hebron this proved true, as settler children attacked internationals by throwing a stone on the scene before the eyes of Israeli soldiers without consequences. more

Israeli soldiers have depraved “fun” making “Rachel Corrie pancakes”

Israeli soldiers had a “fun” time making what they called “Rachel Corrie pancakes.”

Photos of the event were posted on the Facebook page of the “Heritage House,” a settlement in occupied East Jerusalem that houses so-called “lone soldiers,” men recruited from overseas to join the Israeli occupation forces.

Nesim Pesarel, one of the “Heritage House” residents, seen in a photo from his personal Facebook page. Above the photos of young men, some in Israeli army fatigues or apparently carrying guns, is the caption “Afternoon of ‘rachel corrie’ Pancakes and fun!”

Rachel Corrie is the young American woman murdered by an Israeli soldier who crushed her to death with a bulldozer as she tried to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian family home in the occupied Gaza Strip on 16 March 2003.

The depraved joke that these men were presumably making is a play on the English idiom “flat as a pancake.” Their celebration and joking about Rachel Corrie’s death is utterly vile and reflects the culture of dehumanization inculcated into Israeli soldiers.more

Islamist, leftist factions rally against negotiations

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Palestinian Islamist and leftist factions on Sunday said returning to negotiations with Israel was a mistake.

The Islamic Jihad movement said returning to talks is like "cloning the failure" of previous negotiations, which proved to be mistake, a statement said.

Jihad spokesman Shihab Dawod told Ma'an that the Palestinian Authority has made mistakes in the past that the Palestinian people are still suffering from today.

"There is national Palestinian consensus to refuse negotiations, but the PA responds to American pressures and blackmail," he added.

"Returning back to negotiations under these circumstances is like political suicide because the international and the regional situation does not provide any true support to the Palestinian people or to the Palestinian cause. The Arab countries are busy with internal issues."

Jamil Mizher, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told Ma'an that Palestinian factions must move forward towards political reconciliation and implement a national strategy to face future challenges. more

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Israel agrees to free 'limited number' of Palestinian prisoners

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel on Saturday announced it will release some Palestinian prisoners as a "gesture", as the two sides agreed to meet to pave the way for their first direct talks in three years.

The announcement came hours after US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Amman late on Friday that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators had laid the groundwork to resume the frozen peace talks.

Kerry said that as a first step Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat and his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni would meet him in Washington "to begin initial talks within the next week or so".

The last round of direct talks broke down in 2010 over the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The issue of continued expansion of illegal Jewish settlements remains one of the biggest stumbling blocks between the two sides.

On Saturday, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said his government would engage in the staged release of a "limited number" of prisoners, some of whom have been in Israeli jails for 30 years. more

Gaza construction comes to a halt as siege tightens

Work stopped and concrete mixing machines grew silent, as workers sat in the shade of the incomplete building that is part of the Mahfoud al-Nahnah school project, west of Gaza City. They had expected during the first week of work stoppage that the transportation of goods through the tunnels dug between the Gaza Strip and Egypt would resume — so that building materials could once again enter the Strip, allowing them to complete construction of the school. But, the second week now neared its end without “cement, aggregate and steel” entering the Strip.

Many of the workers vacated the construction site of this public school, commissioned by the Algerian Movement of Society for Peace and named after its leader. Only a few of them remained in addition to the school’s 45-year-old security guard Ahmad Abu Amra, who told Al-Monitor: “Today marks the end of the second week since construction was halted on the school project. The school was supposed to be completed by next April, but nobody now knows when it will open its doors.”

Pointing to the completed first floor and the fence that surrounds the school, Amra added, “Three buildings were supposed to be built — each composed of three floors housing 36 classrooms in which preparatory and primary level courses for girls will be taught. But, this will not become a reality anytime soon.” more

Friday, 19 July 2013

Massive Al-Aqsa prayers on second Friday of Ramadan

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Some 155,000 Muslims attended prayers at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound on the second Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Israeli police said.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP the prayers passed "without incident".

Last Friday's prayers at the site were participated by some 80,000 worshipers.

After the prayers on Friday, hundreds of Hamas supporters took part in a rally in favor of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi and against army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Demonstrators held posters with Mursi's picture and chanted "Morsi is the Egyptian president, Sisi is an American collaborator".

A similar demonstration took place last Friday at the site. more

Fatah: Israeli refusal of 1967 borders nixed Kerry's plan

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel's refusal to hold negotiations based on 1967 borders destroyed US Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to restart peace talks, a senior Fatah leader said Thursday.

Amin Maqboul, secretary-general of Fatah's revolutionary council, said Israel's rejection of 1967 borders as the basis of negotiations signaled that Israel had no intention of stopping settlement building in Palestine.

Kerry on Thursday extended his sixth visit to the region in as many months, hoping for a breakthrough on resuming direct negotiations. He met with President Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan for two rounds of intensive talks on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Maqboul told Ma'an that Palestinian leaders had reached a consensus with Kerry that for talks to resume, Israel must agree to negotiate on 1967 lines, release an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners and stop settlement building.

The Palestinian negotiators asked Kerry to present the demands to Israel. Fatah's Central Committee, which met on Thursday to discuss Kerry's plan, said the Palestinian demands must be met in writing and not just verbally, Maqboul said. more

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Palestinian leaders 'to vote on talks with Israel'

RAMALLAH (AFP) -- Palestinian leaders will vote Thursday on a US plan under which peace talks with Israel will not depend on a settlement ban, a key Palestinian demand, a PLO official said.

The vote by the Palestinian leadership comes after US Secretary of State John Kerry reported a narrowing of the gaps between Israel and the Palestinians and as Israeli President Shimon Peres estimated the two sides are "within touching distance".

"The most important of Kerry's proposals is a renewal of talks without a halt or freeze in settlement," the official told AFP.

He said that Kerry's plan states that if settlement building continues during the talks, the Palestinians could renew their requests to join international bodies where they could seek legal action against Israel.

Previously the United States has consistently opposed such "unilateral" Palestinian action.

The official said that President Mahmoud Abbas was to convene members of his Fatah movement in the West Bank city of Ramallah to vote on Kerry's initiative. more

Gaza hospitals suffering due to border closure with Egypt

Baher al-Turk, a patient at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, has begun to suffer severe anxiety over his health. He fears the consequences of an ongoing shortage of the fuel necessary to run the power generators in the Shifa Medical Complex (the largest medical facility in the Gaza Strip), and whose power supply is suffering an acute crisis.

The fuel crisis in the Gaza Strip began after Egyptian security forces in the city of Rafah conducted a large-scale campaign against the tunnels used for smuggling gas into the Strip, destroying most of the pumps that bring fuel into the Strip.

In addition to fuel imported from Egypt, there is another source of fuel imports into Gaza, namely, Israeli fuel that enters the strip in small, unstable quantities. But these imports are few in quantity and high in price, rendering their use infrequent and highly limited. Turk, 64, told Al-Monitor that he needs kidney dialysis three times a week at the Shifa Medical Complex, saying, "If the power is cut off, it will mean my life's end."

Turk spends four hours in every dialysis session, focusing his gaze on the device which drains his blood and returns it, while sneaking quick glances at his watch, hoping that it will perhaps move more quickly and his time in that place will come to an end. more

Israeli forces make limited incursion east of Gaza city after shelling

GAZA, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) shelled at dawn Wednesday a border area to the east of Gaza city before they carried out a limited incursion into it amid intensive gunfire.

A field observer told Quds Press that the Israeli artillery, stationed to the east of Johr Addik district in southeast of Gaza city, fired one projectile at cultivated lands without no reported casualties.

The observer added that after the shelling, a number of armored vehicles rallied near Al-Kamera area to the east of Johr Addik. more

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Hamas demands alternative after Egypt army closes Gaza tunnels

Hamas spokesman Ehab Al-Ghaseen said on Wednesday that the Egyptian army has initiated a campaign to close smuggling tunnels to Gaza.

"These campaigns were initiated for specific political reasons," added the spokesman.

Al-Ghaseen stressed the need for a formal commercial alternative before the tunnels are closed, saying that calls to Egypt have been made concerning the matter.

The suspension of smuggling activities has led to a serious gas shortage, added Al-Ghaseen, who underlined the tunnels' importance to the Strip.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian NGO Network issued a joint press statement condemning Egyptian media incitement against Palestinians, aimed at "defaming Palestinian citizens." more

NGO: Israel set to approve another 1,000 settler homes

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli authorities are expected on Wednesday to give the green light for the construction of 1,071 new homes in six West Bank settlements, watchdog Peace Now said in a statement on Tuesday.

The news came as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Jordan at the start of a sixth round of intense diplomacy to revive stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, with Israel's settlement building a key sticky point.

It also came as the European Union was due to publish on Friday guidelines barring member states from funding projects in Jewish settlements.

Peace Now said that a government committee was expected to grant initial approval for plans to build 339 homes at Galgal and Almog settlements in the Jordan valley, Kfar Adumim northeast of Jerusalem and at Kochav Yaacov and Shilo near Ramallah. more

Hamas official: Egypt not participating in Gaza siege

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The government in Gaza is in constant talks with Egyptian officials to open the Rafah border crossing regularly, but does not consider Egypt a party to the siege, a senior minister said Tuesday.

Ziad Thatha, deputy premier of the Hamas-run government in Gaza, said Israel bore sole responsibility for the closure of the enclave.

"There is only one siege not two in Gaza and it is imposed by the Israeli occupation with the go-ahead from the US," Thatha told Ma'an.

Israel maintains a blockade on the Gaza Strip, closing its land border to most residents, limiting imports and exports and banning air or sea travel.

Most of Gaza's 1.7 million residents can only use the Rafah crossing on Egypt's border to enter or leave the enclave.

Egypt abruptly closed the Rafah terminal for five days in June after a rise in militant attacks in Sinai following the army's ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi. It partially reopened the border on June 10.

Egypt has also cracked down on cross-border smuggling tunnels, which have provided a lifeline to residents of Gaza under the siege. more

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Media accusations of meddling in Egyptian affairs worry Gaza

Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip, find themselves accused by the Egyptian media of interfering in Egypt's internal affairs.

The Al-Resala newspaper, which has close ties to Hamas, wrote on its front page on Monday about an Egyptian media plan to implicate Gaza and tarnish the image of the Palestinians in Egypt."

Palestinian journalist Mamoun Abu Amer called for prosecuting what he coined “fascist” and “racist” Egyptian journalists who accuse Gaza of meddling in Egyptian affairs, and suggested the formation of a Palestinian human rights commission in Europe for this purpose.

Palestinians displayed their resentment on social networking sites at such accusations by members of the Egyptian media that lack any official status, either from the Egyptian army or other sovereign entities.

The accusations point to Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, as interfering in favor of ousted President Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hamas is considered an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood group in Palestine. Although it has close ties to the group, it has repeatedly denied any interference in Egyptian affairs, or bias for any of the parties in Egypt.

Hamas leading figure Ahmed Youssef told the German DPA news agency that the official authorities in Egypt denied any formal charges about Palestinians or elements of Hamas meddling in Egyptian affairs, nor any involvement in recent turmoils.

Unlike the Palestinian Authority, Hamas did not comment on the Egyptian armed forces ousting Morsy and abolishing the Constitution, nor did it congratulate interim President Adly Mansour. more

EU takes tougher stance on Israeli settlements

Future agreements between the European Union and Israel must include the explicit exclusion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank or East Jerusalem, according to a new EU directive described by an Israeli official as an "earthquake".

The EU guidelines, adopted on 30 June, will prohibit the issuing of grants, funding, prizes or scholarships unless a settlement exclusion clause is included. Israeli institutions and bodies situated across the pre-1967 Green Line will be automatically ineligible.

The Israeli government will be required to state in any future agreements with the EU that settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are outside the state of Israel.

The directive, part of the 2014-20 financial framework, covers all areas of co-operation between the EU and Israel, including economics, science, culture, sports and academia. It does not cover trade, such as produce and goods originating in settlements.

An EU statement said the guidelines "set out the territorial limitations under which the commission will award EU support to Israeli entities … Concern has been expressed in Europe that Israeli entities in the occupied territories could benefit from EU support. The purpose of these guidelines is to make a distinction between the state of Israel and the occupied territories when it comes to EU support." more

Why won’t Egypt let me go home to Gaza?

By Belal Dabour (The Electronic Intifada)
“Come again next week,” said the man sitting behind a desk piled with paperwork. This was my fifth time hearing these words, from an official in booth number nine at the Egyptian embassy in Amman.

I asked if there was any hope of an opening for the hundreds of Palestinians from Gaza stranded in Jordan, but he said he could not promise anything. On an earlier visit, the day after the Egyptian army’s 3 July ouster of President Muhammad Morsi, the same employee told me that the delay in issuing visas was due to the “civil disobedience” that accompanied the 30 June mass protests in Egypt. He said that processing would speed up in coming days, but it never did.

For more than a week since the military takeover, the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza has been closed, except for brief periods. Palestinians, even with valid visas for Egypt, have been deported from Cairo airport.

Egypt has also instructed airlines to refuse to allow such Palestinians to board Cairo-bound flights. The instructions were confirmed to me twice from both Egyptian and Palestinian airline offices.

A relative of mine from Turkey was told that Egypt would fine Turkish Airlines €5,000 ($6,500) for every Palestinian brought to Cairo in defiance of the ban. And a friend of his, he told me, arrived in Cairo and was deported back to Cyprus, but was lucky enough to be given a courtesy ticket. more

Israel police arrest protesters at anti-Prawer Plan demo

BEERSHEBA, Israel (AFP) -- Israeli police said they detained 15 Bedouin as hundreds of the tribesmen and women marched Monday in the city of Beersheba to protest a government plan to resettle them.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, which represents Arab communities in Israel, had called for a day of "angry strikes" including demonstrations in 15 cities to denounce the plan.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said about 800 people took part in the main demonstration in Beersheba, while Arab Israeli MP Jamal Zahalka said more than 1,000 attended.

"We called for a peaceful protest in which more than 1,000 people took part but the police used force. They tried to beat a girl with clubs but when I tried to protect her they beat me up as well," Zahalka told AFP. more

Monday, 15 July 2013

Group slams 'slanderous attacks' on Palestinian-American football star

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A civil rights group in the United States has denounced what it called 'slanderous attacks' on a Palestinian-American football star by Yahoo! Sports and Major League Baseball.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee on Friday expressed "serious concern" about a tweet written on July 10 by Jonathan Mael, the media coordinator for MLB, which compared New York Jets football star Oday Aboushi to a convicted murderer, seemingly based solely on his Palestinian heritage.

In the tweet Mael wrote: "The @nyjets are a disgrace of an organization. The Patriots have Aaron Hernandez, the Jets have Oday Aboushi."

Football player Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder in June in connection with the death of another football player.

ADC slammed the tweet as "extremely biased" and called for the immediate termination of Jonathan Mael and an official apology from MLB to the Arab-American community.

"It goes beyond attacking only Oday Aboushi; it is another piece of the continuous unjustified attacks waged each day on Arab and Muslim Americans," the group said.

Mael later issued an apology.

A day after Mael's tweet, an article written by Adam Waksman appeared on Yahoo! Sports entitled: "Could Oday Aboushi Jeopardize His NFL Career with Anti-Israel Activism?"

ADC said that the article, later removed by Yahoo, "falsifies information" and "derives its argument from a well known extremely anti-Arab anti-Muslim source: FrontPage Magazine." more

Stranded Gaza pilgrims to arrive home Tuesday

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hundreds of Gaza pilgrims who have been stranded in Saudi Arabia for weeks due to unrest in Egypt will arrive home on Tuesday, a Gaza official said.

Adel Swalha, director of the ministry of endowment in the Hamas-run Gaza government, told Ma'an that the pilgrims will arrive in three groups, one of which will leave late Monday, carrying around 590 people, and the second on Tuesday.

The third group of around 570 pilgrims will fly back to Cairo airport later on Tuesday. more

Gaza families visit jailed relatives in Israeli prisons

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A group of Gaza residents visited their relatives in Israeli jails on Monday, the International Committee for the Red Cross said.

ICRC spokesman Nasser al-Najjar told Ma'an that 65 family members, including six children, left Gaza via the Beit Hanoun, or Erez, crossing to visit 39 jailed relatives in Israel.

Israel banned visits to all prisoners from Gaza in 2007 to pressure Hamas to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was freed in October 2011. more